Building 1,500 homes under Camarillo Airport's traffic pattern in Southern California is just asking for noise complaints and airport operation restrictions, AOPA warned Camarillo Mayor Jan McDonald on September 12.
AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn explained a scenario that has become a reality at too many airports: The developer builds homes under the airport traffic pattern and new residents complain about noise from airplanes flying overhead. The city then has to find a solution for the community and airport users.
AOPA recommended that if the city decides to approve the project, the homes be built with extra residential insulation and that real estate disclosures and easements accounting for aircraft noise be included in sales.
"It is our understanding," Dunn wrote Mayor McDonald, "that the Ventura County Airport Land Use Commission has determined that the Springville project is 'conditionally compatible' with the existing Comprehensive Airport Land Use Plan for Camarillo Airport. However, that does not necessarily mean that residents of the proposed development will not feel the impacts of an extremely busy airport [more than 153,000 operations per year] that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. However, a determination of conditional compatibility does not necessarily indicate that such a massive development project so close to an active airport is actually in the best interest of future residents or the airport. Comments made by the Ventura County airport director before the advisory commission on July 2, 2007, speak to that fact. There should be no doubt that these potential new residents will be impacted by airport operations.
"Unfortunately," Dunn continued, "developers submit plans to local government organizations with promises of increased revenues and amenities accruing to the government agency. In reality, the developer gains approval, constructs the project, realized significant profits, and moves on to the next project only to leave local government officials with the problems created by their project and to solve on their own.
"We have reviewed the city's '2006 General Plan Annual Report.' The Noise Element, adopted August 16, 1996, beginning on page 54 includes a Goals Review which states: 'Noise and land use conflicts should be avoided by properly considering noise issues during the planning, design, approval and permitting process for new development.'
"It is our view that approval of the Springville Site Specific Plan is generally counter to this stated goal, although we are pleased that the goal does require developers to both study noise impacts and to implement noise mitigation measures," Dunn concluded.
AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Greg Pecoraro has informed California state officials of a New York ruling overturning a state law requiring background checks for pilots. California legislators briefly considered a similar law.
In a letter to Gloria Romero, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety in the California State Senate, Pecoraro noted that Sen. Jim Battin had offered S.B.798 requiring background checks for individuals seeking flight instruction. Battin offered the bill at the request of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security. AOPA urged the bill to be rejected. Romero chose to wait on considering the bill until a challenge to a similar New York law by AOPA was adjudicated. U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe granted AOPA's motion.
The judge recognized that the federal government has responsibility for aviation safety and security, not states, in order to create a uniform system. He found the New York law unconstitutional and unenforceable, and enjoined the state from enforcing any part of the law.
"I hope that you will find this information useful should the Committee on Public Safety be asked to consider any similar legislation in the future," Pecoraro said. "Please be assured that AOPA always stands ready to work with legislators to develop reasonable, effective programs that improve aviation security while protecting the nation's vital general aviation industry."
AOPA had met senior staff of the members of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and the committee's analyst to discuss implications of the bill. AOPA provided copies of letters from the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration, written in regard to the New York case, which clearly established the federal preemption of flight training regulation.
During the April 24 committee hearing on the bill, Sen. Romero alluded to material provided by AOPA as a basis for not proceeding with the bill. AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer testified against the bill at that hearing.
A Web camera paid for by AOPA continues to show progress by Sunroad Enterprises in removing the top floors of a nearly completed building that the FAA determined posed an aviation hazard to aircraft using San Diego's Montgomery Field.
Initially the developer said it had a consultant who determined that the FAA was wrong.
The developer also said he would build a second building at the site, one also taller than the FAA would allow. That building has been canceled. In the closing months of the battle the developer appealed to city officials with success, winning small battles one at a time. For example, the company was granted the right to install a roof to protect the interior of the building, but it was actually the same roof designed for the taller building. Now the controversy has ended in favor of safety, and two city officials involved in approving early efforts by the developer to construct the building to a height of 180 feet, 20 feet higher than the FAA and the state thought wise, have left their city posts.
City officials are seeking a private operator for the Oceanside Airport, now that the FAA has told local government officials that the airport can't be closed. There were plans to put a shopping center or homes where the airport is located.
The San Diego Union Tribune noted that problems remain at the airport that will be costly to fix. Taxiways are too narrow and aircraft are parked too close to the runway. The FAA will not require the problem to be fixed unless the airport receives a new federal grant to fund such projects. Also there is only a 10-foot flight clearance over Benet Road at the west end of the airport, the newspaper reported, but a 15-foot clearance is required. Also it appears there is a legal problem with nearly 15 acres north of the runway that the city bought four years ago with a $2.5 million FAA grant. AOPA Vice President for Airports Bill Dunn recently met with city officials to discuss the proposal as well as the "right of first refusal." City officials gave the seller, the Deutsch Company, the option to buy back the land if the airport was not in use in March 2008. Dunn told the mayor that the Deutsch clause violates the FAA grant assurances policy.
Now that Santa Clara County has said it does not want to operate the Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County past 2017, city officials are faced with important questions. Should they take it over early? The city staff members have suggested doing just that, according to a report in The Palo Alto Online. Staff members have suggested taking over the airport in three years. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Bob Lennox is working with local pilots in crafting a plan that will transfer airport operations to the city. The city hired a consultant to guide its planning, R. Austin Wiswell, former head of California's Division of Aeronautics. Wiswell said the city needs to decide what it wants the airport to be. Its main value, he said, is as a transportation center for business and tourists.
One councilman says the debate is pointless. He said that global warming threatens to put the airport property under water in 50 years.
The California Senate Appropriations committee killed a bill that would have created a task force to analyze air quality studies for Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AOPA had successfully worked to remove language that would have required another environmental study involving collecting taxi and idle times of general aviation aircraft at the airport.
"We hope this marks the end of legislative efforts to impose another unnecessary environmental study at Santa Monica," said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. "This is the second year that state lawmakers rejected legislation affecting this vital airport."
So far there have been seven air quality studies of the airport. AOPA believes the studies will be used to attempt to restrict operations at Santa Monica, a move that could ultimately threaten all California airports.